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" I do not find it to be true, as it is reported, that to the second sight nothing is presented but phantoms of evil; good seems to have the same proportion in these visionary scenes, as it obtains in real life. Almost all remarkable events have evil for their basis, and are either miseries incurred, or miseries escaped. Our sense is so much stronger of what we suffer, than of what we enjoy, that the ideas of pain predominate in almost every mind. What is recollection but a revival of vexations, is history but a record of wars, treasons, and calamities? Death, which is considered as the greatest evil, happens to all, the greatest good be it what it will is the lot but of a part.
“ That they should often see death is to be expected, because death is an event frequent and important, but they see likewise more pleasing incidents. A gentleman told me that when he had once gone far from his own island, one of his labouring servants predicted his return, and described the livery of his attendant which he had never worn at home, and which had been without any previous design occasionally given him.
“ It is the common talk of the Lowland Scots, that the notion of the second sight is wearing away with other superstitions, and that its reality is no longer supposed but by the grossest people. How far its prevalence was extended, or what ground it has lost, I know not. The islanders of all degrees, whether of rank or understanding, universally admit it, except the ministers, who universally deny it in consequence of a system against conviction : one of them honestly told me that he came to Sky with a resolution not to believe it.
“Strong reasons for incredulity will readily occur: this faculty of seeing things out of sight is local and commonly useless, it is a breach of the common order of things, without
any visible reason, or perceptible benefit; it is ascribed only to a people very little enlightened, and among them, for the most part, to the meau and ignorant.
« To the confidence of these ohjections it may be replied, that by presuming to determine what is fit and what is beneficial, they presuppose more knowledge of the universal system than man has attained; and, therefore, depend upon principles too complicated and extensive for our comprehension, and that there can be no security in the consequence when the premises are not understood; that the second sight is only wonderful because it is rare, for considered in itself, it involves no more difficulty than dreams, or perhaps than the regular exercise of the cogitative faculty ; that a general opinion of communicative impulses, or visionary representations, has prevailed in all ages and all nations; that particular instances have been given with such evidence as neither Bacon nor Boyle has been able to resist; that sudden impressions, which the event has verified, have been felt by more than own or publish them; that the second sight of the Hebrides implies only the local frequency of a power which is no where totally unknown, and that where we are unable to decide by antecedent reason, we must be content to yield to the force of testimony.
By pretension to second sight no profit was ever sought or gained, it is an involuntary affection in which neither hope nor fear are known to have any part, those who profess to feel it do not boast of it as a privilege, nor are considered by others as advantageously distinguished; they have no temptation to feign, and their hearers have no motive to encourage the imposture.
“ To talk with any of these seers is not easy, there is one living in Sky with whom we would gladly have conversed, but he was very gross and ignorant, and knet no English. The proportion in these countries of the
poor to the rich is such, that if we suppose the quality to be accidental, it can very rarely happen to a man of education, and yet on such men it has sometimes fallen. There is Bow a second sighted gentleman in the High
lands, who complains of the terrors to which he is expostd.
“ The foresight of the seers is not always prescience, they are impressed with presages of which the event only shews them the meaning, they tell what they have seen to oihers who are at that time not more knowing than themselves, but may become at last very adequate witnesses by comparing the narrative with its verification.
“ To collect sufficient testimonies for the satisfaction of the public or of ourselves, would have required more time than we could bestow. There is against it the seeming analogy of things confusedly seen and little understood, and for it the indistinct cry of national persuasion, which may be perhaps resolved at last into prejudice and tradition. I never could advance my curiosity to conviction, but came away at last only willing to believe *."
* Johnson's Journey to the Western Islands, Murphy's edit. vol, viii. p. 343---347. •